Author Topic: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?  (Read 3940 times)

YTProphet

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Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« on: January 16, 2020, 09:30:55 AM »
So I was promoted recently and shortly after that received a much better offer. However, at my current job, I had a performance bonus in 2019 tied to a specific project. I did a great job and exceeded the performance goals (all of which were easily measurable in $).

I gave my boss notice of my intention to leave and we discussed a turnover plan. Toward the end, I raised the issue of performance bonus and whether or not I'd receive that. As gently as I could I indicated that I would be making a rather quick exit (2 weeks) if it was not going to be paid. He was livid at leveraging that bonus for being more helpful on the way out and possibly staying longer to make a smooth transition.

Was I completely out of bounds to bring that up? I definitely see what he was saying, but employment is a commercial transaction. We're not friends. It's business. In business, money discussions should always be fair game.

BECABECA

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2020, 09:39:50 AM »
I don’t think it was out of bounds, but it might have been the way you delivered it... if you delivered it with too much honesty (acknowledging that if they screw you over, then you will not feel obliged to do them any favors), then they would read it as a threat, and yeah, that’d be offputting. But if you delivered it a little more coy, assuming instead that they’d be honorable, then it shouldn’t be any reason for them to get mad. Like “I appreciate that I’m going to receive this bonus from my 2019 performance and I will make sure to give you that same respect in making my departure date flexible so we can ensure a smooth handoff of my projects.” (And the corollary, if they don’t give you the bonus you already earned then you will be giving them a commensurate level of respect, while unspoken, is most likely understood).
« Last Edit: January 16, 2020, 09:46:35 AM by BECABECA »

ATS

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2020, 10:49:58 AM »
So I was promoted recently and shortly after that received a much better offer. However, at my current job, I had a performance bonus in 2019 tied to a specific project. I did a great job and exceeded the performance goals (all of which were easily measurable in $).

I gave my boss notice of my intention to leave and we discussed a turnover plan. Toward the end, I raised the issue of performance bonus and whether or not I'd receive that. As gently as I could I indicated that I would be making a rather quick exit (2 weeks) if it was not going to be paid. He was livid at leveraging that bonus for being more helpful on the way out and possibly staying longer to make a smooth transition.

Was I completely out of bounds to bring that up? I definitely see what he was saying, but employment is a commercial transaction. We're not friends. It's business. In business, money discussions should always be fair game.

IMO it was a legitimate discussion of a transaction.

You were giving more than the typical two week notice to help with the transition and in return you get the bonus that you earned.

Did he expect you to stay longer, help with the transition and not get the bonus?

Car Jack

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2020, 11:40:28 AM »
Was the bonus terms not defined in advance?

I've always worked for tech companies, so perhaps I'm used to brutally logical definitions.  Like: Bonus to be paid on April 30th.  Employee receiving bonus must remain a full time employee to receive bonus and must be fully employed on April 30th at 5:00pm mother ship local time.  Those on FMLA, leave or disability will receive a pro-rated bonus equal to the percentage of the quarter that they were actively working and will receive bonus on April 30th even if they are not back to work at that time.  Any employee who leaves the company before 5:00pm mothership local time of April 30th will be ineligible for any bonus.


Mgmny

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2020, 11:53:51 AM »
I agree with the others. Context and tone/delivery are important here.

At it's core though, it sounds like your boss might just be dealing with the fact that he is losing a good employee, and you are just concerned about the $$.

YTProphet

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2020, 02:21:20 PM »
Was the bonus terms not defined in advance?

I've always worked for tech companies, so perhaps I'm used to brutally logical definitions.  Like: Bonus to be paid on April 30th.  Employee receiving bonus must remain a full time employee to receive bonus and must be fully employed on April 30th at 5:00pm mother ship local time.  Those on FMLA, leave or disability will receive a pro-rated bonus equal to the percentage of the quarter that they were actively working and will receive bonus on April 30th even if they are not back to work at that time.  Any employee who leaves the company before 5:00pm mothership local time of April 30th will be ineligible for any bonus.

It was a discretionary bonus outside the normal bonus plan. The normal bonus plan has the boilerplate language. This did not. For this one, they identified specific employees who were working on key projects and incentivized them further but we were asked not to disclose this to anyone else at the company.

I tried my best to have a good tone, but there's no way to not make it sound like you're making one more grab for money. There's just no way around it. I was leaving, and asking about a bonus where the target was achieved but it hadn't been paid because it's not April. He basically said I showed my "true colors" in that I was greedy.

ReadyOrNot

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2020, 04:06:28 PM »
Ouch.  Tough situation.  When you took the higher paying job, you were in effect giving up the probability of the bonus you would have gotten if you had stayed.

The boss is probably upset at losing a good employee and being a little emotional for the lack of "loyalty".  But fact is companies are not loyal to employees these days and you shouldn't feel guilty about doing what's best for you.

In the big picture you traded a probable bonus for a much better paying job, I'd say that's a decent trade off if it truly pans out.

It doesn't hurt to ask about the bonus because if the company is upstanding they should consider paying it out to you, in the hopes you may come back in the future.  If they don't, well, you know where you stand with the company.

Best of luck to you.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2020, 05:53:34 PM »
I doubt he’s mad about the bonus discussion as much as the fact that you’re leaving. And you know what, who gives a shit about his opinion on your true colors? As you said, this is business and your obligation is to look after yourself, while doing the work required. If that company wanted to get rid of you, they’d do it in a heartbeat as a business decision. You made yourself clear because they could definitely let you be Mr Helpful Transition and still deny your bonus, what are your assurances? So, I think you did the right thing and all the best in the new role.

use2betrix

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2020, 06:02:14 PM »
You mention your bonus was intended to be paid in April.

Today is January 16th, not even remotely close. Unless you were intending to stay to dang near April, I do think you were out of line to ask that question.

A lot of times companies have bonuses and pay structures set up like that, to keep employees from leaving.

In your original post, I was under the impression that maybe your bonus was intended to be paid in 4 weeks but you were currently planning to leave in 2, or similar.

Zamboni

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2020, 06:09:24 PM »
It was not out of bounds to ask about it  . . .  and now you have your answer about how helpful (or not) you should be with their transition as you leave.

Villanelle

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2020, 06:24:59 PM »
It was an April bonus?  You are quitting well before April.  I would not expect, and in fact would be shocked to receive, a bonus if I quit three months prior to the bonus date, even if it was for work already performed.  I mean, it can't hurt to ask and I don't fault you for that, but as you said, it's a business and that goes both ways.  It's an April bonus, you won't be working there in April, so... 

Language used when offering/promising the bonus also matters, if you wanted to attempt to force their hand legally.

And I think that attempting to be agreeable, without making it in to a direct quid pro quo, might have increased your chances.  Your approach sounds fairly mercenary, which means you can expect mercenariness in return. Bonuses are generally intended to keep employees happy so that stick around, even if they are sold as rewards.  They have no reason to want to keep you happy and you made it clear you have no loyalty to them (which is understandable), so why should they be loyal to you?

IOW, to answer you question directly, not it wasn't out of bounds but I don't think your approach made it more likely (and wouldn't be surprised if it made it less likely) they will do so. 

Mgmny

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2020, 07:24:29 PM »
Yeah lol April is so far away. You're not getting that money and you shouldn't have expected it if it weren't due until April.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2020, 06:34:26 AM »
April is way too far away.

Also, I’m not sure what state you’re in, but the case law is usually extremely against you having a “right” to the bonus if you are not working there at the time it was to be paid.

I’ve been involved in “year-end” bonus cases that have been dismissed in favor of the employer several times.

Did not hurt to ask about it, but I’d expect them to tell you to go fly a kite.

DaMa

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2020, 09:10:37 AM »
If I wanted a bonus, I would give no hint that I was leaving prior to payout.  At one of my jobs there was a lot of turnover.  Everyone waited to see who gave notice on Monday after the Friday bonus payout in February.  It was like a sporting event with lots of discussion and wagering.

RWTL

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2020, 09:55:46 AM »
It was rational to ask - but as you know in business - there is always someone's emotional component. 

What was the end result?  Did he agree to give you the bonus?

If you need to preserve your relationship with this person, you could follow up with something like "You know, the bonus is really important to me and I worked hard to make sure the company met the goal - so I feel it should be paid before I leave.  I probably could have communicated it better."

It's always a delicate dance when it comes to money, termination, and everyone's emotions.  I've been a leader for over 20 years and at this point, it's all a business transaction.  If I was your boss and you met the goal, I would fight to make sure it was paid before you left.  That said, it may be hard for him to convince others of this. 

ixtap

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #15 on: January 17, 2020, 10:03:59 AM »
It was rational to ask - but as you know in business - there is always someone's emotional component. 

It is not rational to expect a bonus three months early.

If, in the course of discussing the transition, the manager had asked if there was anything they could do to get OP to stay through X, then the bonus might have been a decent negotiating tool. OP makes it sound like they discussed a transition plan, then OP threw out "if I don't get the bonus, I am not following that plan."

RWTL

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2020, 10:18:22 AM »
It was rational to ask - but as you know in business - there is always someone's emotional component. 

It is not rational to expect a bonus three months early.

If, in the course of discussing the transition, the manager had asked if there was anything they could do to get OP to stay through X, then the bonus might have been a decent negotiating tool. OP makes it sound like they discussed a transition plan, then OP threw out "if I don't get the bonus, I am not following that plan."

I think it depends on the circumstances - If the bonus was to be paid for a specific task then it is not unreasonable to ask that it be paid out when the task was complete, even if it was ahead of schedule.  It sounds like this was a unique circumstance that was limited to a small group of people.

That said, I wouldn't have given a condition on my asking for the bonus early.  I would have asked without a condition and then made my plans based on the answer.

marty998

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2020, 01:16:52 PM »
A case like this is partially the reason for why sign-on bonuses are increasingly common.

By leaving, you are giving up the right to your performance bonus at your old employer. And to entice you to join, your new employer agrees to compensate you for what you are going to miss out on.

Bloop Bloop

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2020, 01:43:53 AM »
I think you should have couched it in more neutral terms. Something like you really wanted the extra bit of money for X, Y, Z (I don't know, home renovations? Sick relative? You're not getting paid as much at the new firm? You can lie however you want), or at least be more deferential and sound less cut throat.

Don't get me wrong. You did the right thing. Always be cut-throat in business. Business is business and you want to extract every cent.

But you can't seem like you're extorting someone, especially when you're extorting someone.

Try to couch it in terms where people still think you're a nice guy and one of them. If you can cloak the dagger, do so. You never know when your nice guy reputation will come in handy later down the line. Don't burn bridges if you can avoid it.

daverobev

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2020, 03:06:59 AM »
If the bonus is for work that has already been completed but just won't be paid til April, I'd say no problem asking/using it. OP's done the work. And they are in a position where they would otherwise lose it.

As others said, the business is not your friend. Boss is just annoyed. OP is well within their rights to leave in 2 weeks. OP could have instead said "I will leave in 2 weeks unless you pay $xxx more to keep me until this date".

True colours lol. Yeah, we don't go to work for fun.

YTProphet

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2020, 07:18:31 AM »
If the bonus is for work that has already been completed but just won't be paid til April, I'd say no problem asking/using it. OP's done the work. And they are in a position where they would otherwise lose it.

As others said, the business is not your friend. Boss is just annoyed. OP is well within their rights to leave in 2 weeks. OP could have instead said "I will leave in 2 weeks unless you pay $xxx more to keep me until this date".

True colours lol. Yeah, we don't go to work for fun.

Yeah, I realize it was a bit ballsy to ask for it but I worked my ass off to hit the targets and if my  boss doesn't understand why that might motivate me to at least ask, then it just reassures me that leaving is the right move. Plus, I'm getting a $10k signing bonus with the new job since I knew current company would laugh me off.

I've gone from making $135k with a 20% bonus at the beginning of 2019 to now make $185k with a 30% bonus opportunity at a new company. House will be paid off in 2020 too.

It's like I'm driving over a hill and can now see the city skyline. Still have a while left to drive but seeing the destination makes it easier to push through. Early retirement, here I come!


RWTL

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #21 on: January 21, 2020, 05:04:32 PM »
If the bonus is for work that has already been completed but just won't be paid til April, I'd say no problem asking/using it. OP's done the work. And they are in a position where they would otherwise lose it.

As others said, the business is not your friend. Boss is just annoyed. OP is well within their rights to leave in 2 weeks. OP could have instead said "I will leave in 2 weeks unless you pay $xxx more to keep me until this date".

True colours lol. Yeah, we don't go to work for fun.

Yeah, I realize it was a bit ballsy to ask for it but I worked my ass off to hit the targets and if my  boss doesn't understand why that might motivate me to at least ask, then it just reassures me that leaving is the right move. Plus, I'm getting a $10k signing bonus with the new job since I knew current company would laugh me off.

I've gone from making $135k with a 20% bonus at the beginning of 2019 to now make $185k with a 30% bonus opportunity at a new company. House will be paid off in 2020 too.

It's like I'm driving over a hill and can now see the city skyline. Still have a while left to drive but seeing the destination makes it easier to push through. Early retirement, here I come!

Nice job on the raise.  Well done.

Case

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2020, 09:58:09 AM »
So I was promoted recently and shortly after that received a much better offer. However, at my current job, I had a performance bonus in 2019 tied to a specific project. I did a great job and exceeded the performance goals (all of which were easily measurable in $).

I gave my boss notice of my intention to leave and we discussed a turnover plan. Toward the end, I raised the issue of performance bonus and whether or not I'd receive that. As gently as I could I indicated that I would be making a rather quick exit (2 weeks) if it was not going to be paid. He was livid at leveraging that bonus for being more helpful on the way out and possibly staying longer to make a smooth transition.

Was I completely out of bounds to bring that up? I definitely see what he was saying, but employment is a commercial transaction. We're not friends. It's business. In business, money discussions should always be fair game.

On a personal level, I don't think you should bring emotions into this.  E.g. you shouldn't feel guilt or that you might have been unethical.  In this case, it's all business (might vary depending on the nature of your business etc...)

In reality, what you have done is risked a small portion of your professional reputation with your soon-to-be-former boss, who is frankly acting a little unprofessional.  Most likely this was the right choice, but perhaps there is a very small chance it might come back to bite you.  Anyways, your making enough money that you really don't need to worry about this sort of stuff.

Bloop Bloop

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Re: Bonus payout when leaving company - was this out of bounds?
« Reply #23 on: January 22, 2020, 01:32:46 PM »
I agree with the last poster. You can feel free to ask for anything you want, but it's about how you phrase it. I see no reason to phrase something in a way that might potentially burn bridges, if there is a reasonable alternative that is more diplomatic. I have found in my career that you never know who is going to be the next person to pop up in your professional life - it doesn't hurt to have a collection of people who'll say positive things about you.

Even if you are a high income earner and will never be dependent on goodwill to survive, it doesn't hurt to have goodwill.